The thing that stands out for me about Oakland is the vast diversity of what is available there. Vegan Soul Food? I can’t imagine how that would work, but Souley Vegan was doing a good lunch business the day I walked by so obviously they are doing something right!
The Chinatown here in Oakland is far superior to the touristy, tchotchka filled one in SF. If you want Asian ingredients this is the place to come.
In both these instances what you see is long time residence able to run and maintain businesses here and make a go of it. Some of the places in Chinatown look like they have been there for a long time. But there are a new businesses sprouting up that are being opened by people in the neighborhood, people who have grown up and lived in Oakland or moved to Oakland because of the opportunities it presents.
While taking some photographs of an old bail bond storefront a local businessman came up to me and ask me what I was doing. At first I was worried and thought maybe he was going to ask me to stop taking pictures.
I particularly liked the name of this one: you walk.
Turns out the guy who approached me owned the Barber shop next store 730 Barber Lounge….
And had just rented/bought the bail bond place and is in the process of making it into a cafe. In chatting I got to meet the barber (the guy in the picture walking into the shop) and a great recommendation on where to eat lunch: OB’s Cafe a local New Orleans/Cajun restaurant.
You gotta love the tag line, especially for a lunch place where people are usually in a hurry to eat and get back to work: Calm down and enjoy yourself!
So often when neighborhoods go through gentrification the people who have always lived there get priced out of the action while large companies come in and put 7/11’s and Starbucks on every corner. Oakland is unique to my experience because the majority of what I saw happening in Old Oakland was local people or small business minded folk from SF who have come here to try to get in and start something where they can actually afford it. This is, to me, very exciting and makes for a much more interesting place to live and shop.
They also have a Farmers Market (Friday’s in Old Oakland) not to mention an amazing couple of African Caribbean food stores. So in addition to getting your Asian groceries here you can pick up some Jerk Sauce and Bammy.
I totally want one of these cast iron cooking vessels:
A lot of times you hear that: “Oakland is the Brooklyn of California” when I first heard that I assumed, wrongly, that it mean’t hipster sustainable diners and groovy local food shops. Indeed it does have some of those things, but it also has lot more than just that. It has diversity, community and the excitement that comes with change.